Balsamo (St. John’s Wort)

Local wild herb

This plant is finishing its tour of duty for 2017. As its yellow flowers fade and wilt from the sun and heat, it is a good time to take the tops of the Balsamo plant for “medicinal purposes”. The Greeks have a lot of names for the herb, Balsamo, Balsamaki, Herb of the Forerunner (Prodromos), Pseirobotano (lice herb?) Xelonohorto (Tortoise herb), Kouktsoudi (?), Periki (?), Psathohorto (sword herb), Kopsohorto (cut herb).

The plant is popularly known elsewhere as St. John’s Wort. The “sword herb” name is particularly apt because an infusion of the plant in oil is an excellent “first aid” treatment for injuries to the skin surface suffered in your weekly sword fights. The infused oil, blood red from sitting in the sun, is also a helpful disinfectant for injuries like burns as it has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Some people drink a tea made from the tops to treat depression, insomnia, and PMS.

Now commercially cultivated, ground up and sold in powder, tea or pill form, St. John’s Wort can be found in shops all over the world.
Deriving it’s name from its flowering around the feast of John the Baptist (the Prodromos June 24), it is an aggressive weed which does well on infertile dry ground on roadsides.

You can pick the flowers, dry them, and use them but do so at your own risk (The headline-“Man’s head swells to five time normal size in mistaken herb mishap”). The oil infusion is made by putting the cut tops of the plant in a closed beaker of olive oil and leaving it out in the sun for a few weeks. Strain the pieces out and use the oil as a skin ointment.
Perhaps some interesting links…

St. John’s wort cultivation in Oregon USA


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